Allies, part three

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Trindai de Laiden was eavesdropping. He lacked the moral restrictions against getting information in such an underhanded way, a lack he was well aware of. None of his superiors would care about how he got his intelligence, but all of them would most certainly come down on him if he failed to find out what he should have known.

At the moment he was trying to handle a problem, one that had currently not reached anything like a satisfying conclusion. Arthur Wallman had to be found and rescued. That, at least, was what Madame de Felder would want, but then she didn't have all the facts. She'd charged him with keeping the outworlder celebrity safe while at the same time making certain the golden opportunity to make a show of increasing Keen's trade didn't fail. She had no possible way of knowing that the creepy outworlder had turned out a taleweaver. The Roadhouse was too far away from Keen for that, but, he thought sourly to himself, he didn't have the benefit of ignorance.

Now Arthur Wallman had to be found and rescued before news about his capture reached kings, councils and other untranslatable bodies of governments deciding to set up rescue missions of their own. Those could, if poorly handled, grow into a conflict that would make the perpetual war between Rhuin and Khanati pale in comparison.

"And I'm the unlucky bastard with this shit in my lap," he muttered silently under his breath. Well, shit or not, it wouldn't do to be discovered here.

Trindai edged himself between the wheels under the wagon where he was hiding. He didn't like what he was hearing. Some traders were apparently not as interested in heroic rescue missions as in protecting their own coffers, and at the moment two of them were voicing their concerns to a group of their colleagues.

You idiots! Why can't you keep your greedy thoughts to yourselves? I don't need a mutiny on my hands now.

Trindai crept back and silently made his way to the horse he'd left far away enough from the circle of wagons not to be seen from it.

A short ride, a few barked commands and a couple of questions later he sat down in the wagon where the Vimarin brew mistress had set up her mobile tavern. The other guests scrambled to their feet and left the wagon as fast as their feet could carry them when he made it clear he wasn't above using his saber on anyone overstaying their welcome. All but one, that was. Trindai had to physically prevent Harbend from joining the exodus.

"We have a problem, M'lord," he said after he'd forcefully turned a startled Harbend to face him.

"We, or you?" Harbend asked regaining some of his composure.

Trindai grinned. He had to give the master trader the credit of being more coldblooded than the average civilian. "We have, or more precisely, you and I have."

"How so?"

"There are traders who don't want to stay put while we send out patrols to find Arthur Wallman."

"Gods! Not you as well. Yes, yes, yes, I want to find my friend and get him back here. I just do not want to order more executions in order to do so."

"I want to make one thing absolutely clear," he growled. "I don't care a bastards fate about your friend, but darkness, it's imperative that we bring the taleweaver to safety."

"I know," Harbend murmured, "but how?"

"That, M'lord, is your decision, but to make that decision easier you should know that I'll leave this caravan with all my men if something doesn't happen very soon."

Harbend looked as if he was going to explode, but then a smile crept up his face. "That," he began, smiling even wider, "is an argument I believe my fellow traders will have no problems understanding."

"Good. Then I have things to do." Trindai made as if to leave.

"Why the hurry?"

Trindai sat down at the unexpected question. There had been an edge of command to it he didn't like.

"Captain, if you are indeed a captain, what is your role here?"

Something cold ran down Trindai's spine. Darkness, have I blown my cover?

"You're not a mercenary escort captain, and your troops are not a bunch of men you happen to command for this trip, long as it may be," Harbend continued relentlessly. "You act with the coordination of professionals. Gods! You somehow made me hire an entire unit rather than random men at arms."

"I don't understand, Lord Garak." Darkness, Mairild will have my skin for this! "What do you mean?" I failed to keep a secret even to a civilian.

"I saw your reluctance at the executions. Tired of killing civilians are you?"

"Huh?" Now Trindai was honestly surprised. Where was this going?

"Too many years spent in the glorious Inquisition doing that dirty work? Captain, are you escorting us, or are you running from your superiors?"

Oh, oh he believes... Lucky day of mine. "You're too perceptive for my taste, Lord Garak. Does it make any difference what we were before you hired us?" Trindai barely managed to keep from sighing with relief.

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